Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My 40 Favourite Albums of 2010: TOP 10! (+1)

*DISCLAIMER! All rankings are based on 3 major factors. 1. I actually have to like the album. Nothing is included because it's on everyone else's list or because I think it would make my list look better. 2. I can listen to it no matter what I am in the mood for. 3. Overall play count/I actually paid money for it.  Remember, this is my opinion. It's not overly analytical. Most, if not all, rankings are VERY fluid. Don't get your panties in a bunch because your favourite band is lower than "that fucking piece of shit band!"*
 
I am perpetually broke so if I throw down my hard earned money on something, it better be fuckin' good. With that being so, if I bought a physical copy of something, it's almost guaranteed to land in my Top 10. Keep in mind that on any given day, any one of these albums could be considered #1. So without further adieu, My Top 10 Favourite Albums of 2010.
 
#10.  Landmine Marathon - Sovereign Descent (USA, Prosthetic):  Last year, my I-just-need-to-fucking-scream album was Grand Feast for Vultures by Blood Tsunami. Hop in the car, crank it up and fucking scream like there's no tomorrow. This year, that album is Sovereign Descent. I'd say 99% of the time I'm not singing the right words (or words at all) but it does the trick. This is one of the most aggressive releases I heard last year. I think one the things that makes it like that is because it feels so raw while still maintaining good production. It feels very organic as well. Like the process of making this death/doom/grind hybrid was totally natural. Nothing forced. Just the obvious result of 5 souls coming together as music. I had the pleasure of meeting the band at one of their shows (I have a signed LP to prove it). You couldn't ask for a more relaxed, down to earth, unassuming bunch of people. But on stage they are a tour de force. Especially Grace Perry. One of THE nicest people I've ever met, but she threw me around like a ragdoll and literally ripped another guy's shirt off his back. (She gave him a new one) On top of that, I don't think she's sung a clean note in her life. A beast of a vocalist. 5 stars. Perfect 10. 4 horns up. Fuck yeah. Standout track: "Steadfast Hate" (shoutouts Ryan, Dylan, Andy, Grace and Matt! Come back to Kingston!)
 
#9. Kylesa - Spiral Shadow (USA, Season of Mist):  Following on the heels of 2009's amaaaazing Static Tensions, (2009 KoN AOTY) mighty Georgians Kylesa brought us another masterpiece in Spiral Shadow. This record is the next step in the evolution of Kylesa. They keep moving forward with each release. They keep growing and maturing as a band. Spiral Shadow fits the mood of its content perfectly. It's very textured with light and shade. But with an overall positive vibe. It swirls in an almost psychedelic fashion. Together, it makes me picture a luminous orb emitting music and colour creating a spiral shadow as reality rotates around it. I've yet to listen to it blitzed but it's an amazing headphone record. Production wise, the job was handled again by guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope, It differed slightly from Static Tensions in that I didn't notice as much panning of the two (dynamically talented) drummers. Still an amazing job. A Phillip Cope production has been at or near the top of my AOTY list 4 years running, including this one. I think it's fair to say I'm a big fan of his work. Also, I feel it differs in that there are more songs dominated by either Phillip or Laura, rather than Phillip and Laura. Could just be me. Whatever the case, the teamwork between them (and the rest of the band) pays off in spades. I was looking forward to seeing them play in Kingston last month but I missed it. Sorry guys! But I had a brand spankin' new baby at home. I'll do my best to raise her as a Kylesa fan. Standout track: "Don't Look Back"
 
#8.  Deftones - Diamond Eyes (USA, Warner):  Diamond Eyes is the first album in the (hopefully temporary) post-Chi Cheng era. I think the idea to forge ahead for Chi was a very good one. It's their best album in a long, long time. Their best since White Pony and maybe even their best since Around The Fur.  Speaking of old school Deftones, that's what this album reminds me of. They've brought back that really aggressive side without losing that inner sensitivity that the ladies seem to like. (I once knew a girl who was totally in love with Chino.)  You really have to admire what Deftones have done here. The bands they came up with (Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc) are jokes now. Totally useless. (Mudvayne and Slipknot too basically) Yet, Deftones created this fantastic album. It's still Deftones too. They haven't changed styles or catered to outside pressures. Sure, it's not Adrenaline but it's still Deftones. Diamond Eyes is who they are. If you've been paying any attention to what kind of vocals I like, you wouldn't think I'd be game for the soft vocals on this. They're soft. I don't have a problem with clean vocals but soft? But, I sing right along! Loud sometimes. But hey, when you're Deftones and Chino Moreno, I cut a lot of slack. Standout track: "Rocket Skates"
 
#7. Electric Wizard - Black Masses (ENG, Rise Above):  This is the lowest I have ever ranked an Electric Wizard album. I feel kinda bad about it. Trouble is, it didn't come out til November so I haven't had that much time with it. I listened to it last night/this morning and it blew my mind. Again. It does that every time. It's fucking Electric Wizard, man! I bow at the altar of Jus Oborn. Black Masses is a beast of an album. The latest chapter in the EW stoner/doom legacy. The heaviness can't be described in the English language. It's so heavy, that despite the deep sense of foreboding that cuts through the dense fog of (that sweet, sweet) pot smoke, I think my heart actually slows down. It's so heavy, it doesn't just crush bones, or pulverize bones, it vaporizes bones.  I'm actually afraid to get high before listening to this. It might put me into a coma. In the decade plus that I've been listening to Electric Wizard (Dopethrone was my intro. I own them all now) I've always said I don't need drugs to listen to EW. Electric Wizard IS a drug. The incredible tone and hypnotic nature of the music takes me to place other bands can't. One of my favourite bands of all time. Standout track: "Scorpio Curse"
 
#6. High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine (USA, E1):  Like I said for Electric Wizard, it's fucking High on Fire, man! High.On.Fire. I don't need to say more but I will. You and I both know that guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike is a god-like creature. This much is obvious. So I am gonna run with that. The three members of HoF are the three most powerful gods in Greek Mythology. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Zeus, the most powerful and the god of the sky and lightning is Matt Pike. His fingers and his guitar make up his lightning rods. Destroying all who dare to question his authority as a guitar god and genius. Poseidon, god of water, is bassist Jeff Matz. His  basslines weave their way into the cracks and crevices of the album like water, giving it depth. And Hades, the god of the underworld, is drummer Des Kensel. His unrelenting drumming pounds humanity into submission and unleashes an earthquake of awesome on every track. Together, they form the near perfection that is High on Fire. Simply divine. And as if the album wasn't great enough, the live show blows that out of the water, earth and sky. Standout track: "Holy Flames of the Firespitter"
 
#5. Fear Factory - Mechanize (USA, Candlelight):  At the beginning of Part 3 (#20-11) I mentioned comeback/return to form albums. I was specifically referring to Deftones and Fear Factory. Mechanize is a comeback and a return to form. FF was never the same without Dino. Honestly, Archetype and Transgression, for lack of a better word, sucked. The story of how this iteration of Fear Factory came about is a long (and bitter) one but basically Dino's back, (yay!) Ray is out (boo) and Christian is out (yay! I blame him for the suckage.) And in their place are none other than Byron Stroud (!) and the venerable (We're not worthy!) Gene Hoglan. Can't do much better than that. Together, they've made FF into the band I fell in love with back in 1995 again. (Thank you, Mortal Kombat soundtrack.) No seriously. This may even be better than Obsolete. Despite being released early in the year, Mechanize hasn't been overshadowed by later releases or suffered from being overplayed. Stylistically, and thematically, it's classic FF. Machinegun riffing, unreal drumming and Burton's mix of harsh/clean vocals (please don't say good cop/bad cop) are all present. I did notice a little less emphasis on keyboards and synths this go around. That's fine with me. It still kicks ass. They may sing about the future, but this feels like a blast from the past. Fear Factory's back, baby! Standout track: "Christploitaion"
 
#4. Black Anvil - Triumvirate (USA, Relapse): Wait. Wait. Wait. Is this the same Black Anvil that released Time Insults the Mind? What a leap forward! Where Time Insults the Mind, if memory serves me, was pretty much a blackened thrash affair, (albeit a pretty good one) Triumvirate has turned the corner and presented itself as more of a thrashened black beast. I had some high hopes for certain albums in 2010 and was severely disappointed (eg Atheist. Meh, not my thing.) Quite the opposite was the case with Black Anvil. I had little to no expectations whatsoever for Triumvirate but from the moment I heard vocalist/bassist Paul Delaney (with Raeph Glicken - Drums and Gary Bennett - Guitar) scream "What is life, if not now!" on the opening track of the same name, I was abso-fucking-lutely floored. I knew instantly it was Top 5. The vocals on this album are more than adequately "black" yet are coherent enough that had I the time, I could actually make out what he's saying. I just don't the luxury of "music only" time. Always reading or making lunches or whatever. What I would know is that this isn't some caveman sentence fragment repetition bullshit. This is some upper level shit. It's the poetry that music, as an art form, should have. Ya know, that, and huge riffs. breakneck drumming and the Holy Metal Triumvirate of Black, Death and Thrash. Standout track: "Angels to Dust"
 
#3. Howl - Full of Hell (USA, Relapse):  I'm going to copy an earlier post about this album. Not because I'm lazy. Just because I did a really good job expressing how I feel about the album. And I'm lazy. "Quite often, a great album will conjure images in your mind regardless of lyrical content.  Full of Hell does that very, very well. The following is what my mind sees. The band are actually Cyclopean giants. They are performing the album in a natural amphitheater/cave opening at the top of a flaming mountain range. This provides the soundtrack to an army of beasts laying waste to civilization below. Now that may not sound like Harvard stuff  but I have a feeling if I got my hands on a lyric sheet, there would be some upper-level intelligence going on. (Somewhat unrelated but, RIP Buried Inside) See, to the best of my knowledge the members of Howl are vegan.  And not to stereotype, but I don't know any meathead vegetarians. (See what I did there?) Adjective time: thick, huge, warm, deep, resonant, frightening, destructive, desolate, and as the Cyclops' last notes echo across the mountains, mournful." I've never heard anything quite like it. It steamrolls the eardrums. In a good way. Standout track: "A Day of Rest"
 
#2. Bison b.c. - Dark Ages (CAN, Metal Blade):  Vancouver's Bison b.c. are quickly making themselves the best metal band in Canada. On Dark Ages, their third album and second for Metal Blade, they've raised the bar yet again. In fact, they are making enough of a name for themselves that a) they should be able to drop the b.c. part now. Everyone knows them and b) They don't need to be referred as "featuring former members of S.T.R.E.E.T.S. I'll never forget the time I missed the chance to see Bison play in Kingston. It was my 30th birthday and they were playing in a converted living room. Can you imagine how insane that was?!  (Stupid surprise party!) This was just after Quiet Earth came out. Their shows have only gotten more legendary and Dark Ages is even better.  Being Canadian, I give Bison a bit of a home court advantage but I really don't have to. Dark Ages is a finely crafted album that would be just as good no matter where they were from. At only 7 songs, that means (to me) that every song is there for a reason. No filler. All killer. From opener "Stressed Elephant" to closer "Wendigo Part 3 (Let Him Burn)" is 46:47 of just plain awesome. It's a different breed of sludge. Sludgecore if you will. Because they bring the urgency and energy of hardcore and punk over to the tone and heft of sludge. What results is every song is an epic. Not IS epic, is AN epic. Such incredible songwriting. And not just for the sake of writing great songs, these are party songs too!! Get your booze on and crank it up! Standout track: "Fear Cave"
 
#1. Withered -Dualitas (USA, Prosthetic):  Now, it's been a while since I've heard Memento Mori or Folie Circulaire but I get a different feeling from Dualitas. It could just be my horrible memory, but it seems more spacious than previous releases. While the oppressive parts are just as oppressive, they are interspersed with more, shall we say, reflective passages. After I actually get a chance to read the lyric sheet I may be able to confirm my theory that the theme of this album is duality. Not in a split-personality sense or "good and evil exist in all of us" way, but more of a two sides to every story idea. For example, some parts are loud and fast and powerful and make me think of war and destruction and all the adrenaline and hot blood that goes with that. That will then fall into a slower, more pensive sounding passage which brings to mind the other side of war. The loss and the sadness. But as I think about it more, the mournful side could be the reflection of the "victors" (no one wins in war). The part where the triumphant survey the destruction they have wrought and think, "What have we done?" "What have we become?" Every time I've listened to Dualitas I can't help but think about the two emotions that rise in my heart, triumph and sorrow. The driving black metal aspect conjuring images of militaristic conquest and victory and the slower, doomier aspect revealing the bloody aftermath and an overwhelming sense of loss. "Interlude" is one of the saddest sounding pieces of music I have ever heard while other parts of the record would flay the skin from your bones and laugh with terrible glee.
Withered have really outdone themselves in creating such an enjoyable yet emotionally draining album. Powerful, cerebral music with a soul. I've never listened to an album that has made me feel the way Dualitas does. I feel absorbed by it. It becomes a part of you. Congratulations Withered. You have a created something truly special and I thank you. *most of this is borrowed from an earlier review I wrote.
 
+1. Now, because I am mentally unable to remove an extreme bias in favour of a couple of my favourite bands I have to mention any albums by those bands separately. I can't possibly place them in the list and be able to find a good spot. The first of those bands is Clutch. They didn't release an album this year. The other bands is...
 
Soulfly - Omen (USA, Roadrunner):  The last 2 Soulfly albums have been great. They are far different than the nu-metal that Max and crew released back in '98. They still have guests on the album but now they are much better than Fred Durst. Tommy Victor (Prong) and Greg Puciato (DEP) lend their vocals talents to Omen. This album is far thrashier than most of Soulfly's work. Also, they have brought elements of hardcore on board to really diversify. This may be their fastest album yet. I think what really helps is that Max is surrounded by somewhat of a stable lineup now. Super-guitarist Marc Rizzo, drummer Joe Nunez and bassist Bobby Burns are now fairly entrenched as members of the band instead of glorified session musicians. I was a big Sepultura fan before Max left and I kinda followed him. I think it's partly due to his vocals. I don't know what it is but I can get into them alot. Maybe it's because when I scream, it sounds similar so I feel more connected to it. Whatever the case may be, I love Soulfly. And I probably always will. They are finally creating albums that should have the critics more on their side. I don't see that yet but people have long memories and they just can't get over the nu-metal association. I think they forget that when nu-metal was new, they didn't hate it the way they do now. I guess if I have a beef with Omen it's "Soulfly VII". It's a good song, don't get me wrong but it sounds more like a Marc Rizzo solo song than a Soulfly song. Still good, but it doesn't fit the way it should. Standout track: really hard decision but, "Rise of the Fallen"
 
And so concludes the long and arduous process of naming my Favourite Albums of the Year. But for the last few weeks, all I've listened to are the above 41 amazing albums. Can't knock that. And now I get to dig into 2011!  First up, CROWBAR!!!!!!!!!!!!! And now that I have internet access at work, you can look forward to more posts, and better posts, from Kingdom of Noise.

2 comments:

  1. I have only heard of #20 Iron Maiden. I can't believe you have such bad taste in music. LOL...

    ReplyDelete